Kander & Ebb's Steel Pier Opens Tonight!

News   Kander & Ebb's Steel Pier Opens Tonight!
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Steel Pier, the latest musical from the team of John Kander and Fred Ebb (Chicago, Cabaret, Kiss of the Spider Woman) began previews March 27 and will open on Broadway April 24 at the Richard Rodgers Theatre.

Tickets are now at the box office and via phone at (212) 307-4100 or (800) 755-4000.

The musical is about marathon-dancing in The Depression of the 1930s--a phenomenon reminiscent of, but not derived from, Horace McCoy's 1935 novel and Sydney Pollack's 1969 film, They Shoot Horses, Don't They?

The musical's book, a love story with that chaotic backdrop, is an original by David (And the World Goes 'Round) Thompson. Karen Ziemba plays Rita, a young woman waiting for her dance partner to show up at the marathon. Though she keeps turning down offers from Bill, a pilot, to be her partner, there's definitely a mutual attraction between them. This doesn't sit well with Mick, the marathon's host, and also Rita's -- well, you'll have to see show to know the rest. At an open rehearsal of the show, March 4, author Thompson told Playbill On-Line he wrote the script "from top to bottom before any songs were composed." He researched the era at the New York Public Library and tried to capture "a world that has disappeared." For Thompson, the most exciting part is seeing how "Stro [Susan Stroman] can take a moment of dance and condense whole scenes into a kind of shorthand. That's where the `eurekas!' come in."

In fact, the musical will mark a reunion for Thompson, who wrote the book for the Kander & Ebb revue And the World Goes 'Round, Scott Ellis (She Loves Me, Company) choreographer Stroman (Crazy for You, Big, Show Boat) and actress Karen Ziemba -- all of whom worked on And the World Goes 'Round.

Steel Pier also will star Gregory Harrison, Daniel McDonald, Debra Monk and Valerie Wright when it opens on Broadway April 24 at the Richard Rodgers Theatre.

Harrison, who plays Mick, was best known as Gonzo Gates on TV's "Trapper John M.D.," but he's also done theatre, having won Drama-Logue Awards for Picnic (Ahmanson) and Feiffer's Carnal Knowledge (Pasadena Playhouse) and a Best Actor Los Angeles Drama Critics Circle Award for The Hasty Heart.

A Drama Desk winner for And The World Goes `Round, Ziemba appeared in Off-Broadway's 1996 I Do! I Do! revival, and in the Broadway company and national tour of Crazy For You. Other Broadway credits include A Chorus Line, 42nd Street. At NY City Opera, she starred in The Most Happy Fella and 110 In The Shade.

Making his Broadway debut as Bill is film and TV actor Daniel McDonald ("All My Children," Dave).

Debra Monk is a Broadway veteran, having earned a Tony for Lanford Wilson's Redwood Curtain and a Tony nomination for Picnic. Co-author of Pump Boys And Dinettes and Oil City Symphony, Monk also appeared in Nick & Nora and Prelude To A Kiss.

Wright comes to the show from touring as Lola in the Jerry Lewis Damn Yankees.

Other members of the cast of 30 are Alison Bevan, Joel Blum (Lost In Yonkers), Ronn Carroll, Kristen Chenoweth, John C. Havens, Jim Newman, Timothy Warmen, Leslie Bell, Brad Bradley, Rosa Curry, Robert Fowler, Ida Gilliams, Jack Hayes, JoAnn M. Hunter, Mary Illes, Angelique Ilo, John MacInnis, Dana Lynn Mauro, Gregory Mitchell, Casey Nicholaw, Adam Pelty and Sarah Solie Shannon.

Songs performed at the March 4 rehearsal included "Dance" (for Harrison), "Dance With Me" (sung by Harrison and McDonald) and "Another Marathon" (Ziemba). The second act opens with "Second Chance," a dream sequence featuring dancers tapping across airplane wings that span the stage.

A new song was also staged at the rehearsal. Titled "Winning," the number was strikingly similar to "All I Care About" in Chicago. The latter song, as currently revived on Broadway, has suave lawyer Billy crooning while flanked by pretty female dancers preening and swooning all around him. "Winning" shows Harrison's suave marathon host Mick flanked by pretty female dancers doing the same all around him.

Steel Pier was to have been the third Kander & Ebb show on Broadway this season. The revival of their 1975 show, Chicago, preceded Steel Pier into the Richard Rodgers Theatre, and transfers to the Shubert Theatre Feb. 12. But Roundabout Theatre Company's planned revival of Cabaret has been postponed to 1998.

David Loud serves as Steel Pier's musical director. He told Playbill On-Line the hardest part of working on the show for him is approximating the 3 and 4-part harmonies of old-style singing. "The cast is wonderful," Loud said. "Many of them were hired as dancers, but they sing beautifully."

The early 1930s is an intriguing period for Loud, and he's quick to stress the more show-bizzy elements of dance marathons, rather than the dark, "They Shoot Horses Don't They" aspects most people associate with such events. "We interviewed people who took part in marathons, and they said you would dance for 45 minutes, and sleep for 15. These things would go on for weeks! But eventually, their bodies would figure out how to adjust. It was also a different time in that there was a real fascination in people living out their lives in front of the public...a novelty of seeing people's day-to-day existence unfolded in front of us."

Sets for Pier are by Tony Walton, costumes by William Ivey Long and lighting by Peter Kaczorowski.

Steel Pier is being produced by Roger Berlind, the same Tony winning lead-angel who produced City of Angels. He's also preparing Cy Coleman's The Life for Broadway this season.

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